Brian Jones: Rock ‘n’ Roll King Monarch

A vibrant new picture book looks deep into the original heart of The Rolling Stones

The mighty Brian Jones (Image: Courtesy of New Galleon/Genius Publishing)

The Rolling Stones “No Filter” 2021 USA tour has wound to a close, the band performing without their stalwart drummer Charlie Watts for the first time in, well…forever.

Watts, who passed away in August of this year, originally auditioned for his position with the band in January 1963 and landed the permanent gig after a February performance at the Ealing Jazz Club in West London. Nicknamed “The Wembley Whammer” by the band’s frontman, Mick Jagger, Watts has always been the rhythmic backbone of the band, never missing a live gig in 56+ years, performing his final show with the Stones in August 2019. Aside from Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, Watts is the only Stones band member to appear on every single album in the band’s catalog.

If Charlie Watts was the foundation on which the Rolling Stones built their lengthy career, then multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones was the band’s original heart and soul. Long forgotten by all but the most faithful of Stones fans, it was actually Jones who founded the band, providing its initial blues-infused rock ‘n’ roll vision, and lending his immense instrumental talents to such groundbreaking 1960s-era ‘British Invasion’ hits as “It’s All Over Now,” “The Last Time,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Get Off My Cloud,” and “Paint It Black,” for which Jones provided the song with its revolutionary sitar riff. Jones’ musical fingerprints were all over early Stones albums like Out of Our Heads, Aftermath, Their Satanic Majesties Request and Beggars Banquet, the unassuming talent adding guitars, keyboards, harmonica, sitar, and percussion wherever needed.

Sadly, Jones was quickly burned out by the band’s heavy touring schedule; the whiplash pace of their recordings (a whopping nine studio albums in roughly five years); and the toll required of living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle in London in the mid-‘60s. When British authorities (in the form of the infamous Detective Sergeant Norman Pilcher, later immortalized in song by John Lennon as “Semolina Pilchard”) decided to crack down on pop stars for their flagrant drug use, odd clothes and long hair, the Rolling Stones became public enemy #1 in the eyes of the law. The tabloid News of the World may have fired the first salvo against the new, youthful British teen idols, but it was the corrupt Sgt. Pilcher (later lampooned by the Monty Python crew as “Spiny Norman”) who led the charge. 

 

VIDEO: Rare footage of Sgt. Norman Pilcher

“Spiny Norman” racked up arrests of rock stars like Jagger, Richards, Jones, and Donovan as well as John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles, often by reportedly planting drugs and paraphernalia, and then taking his shaggy victims on a “perp walk” in front of the hungry cameras of the British tabloid press. No mind that many, if not all of the charges were reversed upon appeal, it was the headlines (which sold papers) that mattered. Jones’ fragile psyche was battered terribly by this aggressive treatment by the police and his prolific talents suffered as he sunk into addiction to the sedative Mandrax (a trade name for methaqualone, i.e. Quaaludes). Jones had been growing apart from his bandmates for some time, and his inability to get a U.S. work visa and tour the states due to his open drug arrests led to the Stones replacing their founding member; little more than a month later, Jones would be dead at the too-young age of 27 years.  

Photographer Michael Cooper was a close friend of Brian Jones, and a talented artist in his own right. A successful fashion photographer for Vogue London and an integral part of the 1960s London rock scene, Cooper’s photos formed the basis for both the Beatles’ iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request album covers. Cooper chronicled 1960s-era counter-culture through the lens of his camera, photographing many luminaries in the overlapping worlds of music, arts, and literature like Marianne Faithful, Eric Clapton, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg, among many others. Cooper sadly passed away in 1973, but his son Adam and Adam’s wife Silvia have dug deep into the archives and assembled Brian Jones: Butterfly In the Park, a loving tribute to the largely-forgotten Rolling Stones founder.

Cooper’s Brian Jones: Butterfly In the Park is a beautiful book, a museum-quality 154-page, 8.5”x11” trade paperback collecting over 120 photos that document Jones’ life at a specific point-in-time (i.e. roughly 1967-1968) as well as providing glimpses of the Stones in the studio and on stage. Cooper’s gorgeous B&W photography dominates the book and tells much of the story (sometimes a picture is worth 1,000 words!), capturing Jones at his flamboyant best, the image-minded musician setting cultural trends with his creative apparel and innate fashion sense.  Cooper had a great eye for his subjects, capturing them at intimate – and sometimes awkward – moments, his photos providing insight and empathy into the lives those he immortalized on film.

Michael Cooper Brian Jones: Butterfly In The Park, New Galleon/Genius Publishing 2021

Brian Jones: Butterfly In the Park isn’t just photos, however stunning they may be, with several friends providing their memories of the talented musician. The book features an introduction by prominent British rock journalist and former Mojo magazine editor Paul Trynka as well as written contributions from Donovan; Linda Lawrence Leitch (Jones’ former girlfriend and Donovan’s wife); Brian’s son with Linda, Julian; and his grandson, musician Joolz Jones. The most compelling narrative, however, comes from Prince Stash Klossowski de Rola, a British aristocrat, the son of painter Balthus, and an actor and musician cut from a similar (exotic) cloth as Jones. Prince Stash figures heavily into any history of London in the ‘Swingin’ ‘60s,’ hanging out with folks like Syd Barrett and Muddy Waters and generally present on any scene that was happening.

Jones and Prince Stash first met when the Stones played in Paris on the same show as Vince Taylor’s band, of which Stash was a member. Sharing similar tastes in clothing, music, women and, well, drugs, the two men became close friends. Stash was arrested alongside Jones during the notorious 1968 drug busts, and he accompanied his friend on the ill-fated post-arrest sojourn to Morocco made by several Stones members that saw Jones hospitalized for pneumonia while his girlfriend Anita Pallenberg left him for Keith Richards. Stash has the inside scoop on what was going on with Jones during the period documented by Butterfly In the Park, and he writes sympathetically of his late friend, preserving his creative legacy while portraying him, warts and all, as a troubled, fragile soul. Stash’s poignant memories are crucial to the book, providing important context and counterpoint to Cooper’s lovely photography.

Brian Jones: Butterfly In the Park is a “must have” addition to the library of any hardcore Stones fan, a welcome visual documentary of the misunderstood musician that fits nicely on the shelf alongside documentary films like Rolling Stone: Life & Death of Brian Jones and Crossfire Hurricane. Jones’ influence on the world of rock music is inestimable, with artists as diverse as Psychic TV (“Godstar”), Robyn Hitchcock (“Trash”), Jeff Dahl (“Mick and Keith Killed Brian”), and Alvin Youngblood Hart (“Watchin’ Brian Jones”) all recording tributes to the first member of the “27 Club” (Jones beating out Jim, Jimi, and Janis for the ‘honor’) while American band the Brian Jonestown Massacre took their name and influence from the original Rolling Stone. With a price tag of $60, the book isn’t cheap, and it’s only available from the good folks at Genius Publishing. But you won’t find these photos anywhere else and, for many collectors, that’s good enough.

 

 

Michael Cooper and his roving lens would show up just about anywhere during the 1960s and, thanks to Adam Cooper and Nile Southern, the son of noted writer Terry Southern, photog fans can check out Chicago 1968, also published by Genius. Another gorgeous high-quality trade paperback, Chicago 1968 documents the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the subsequent police riots that displayed a brutality similar to 2020’s “Black Lives Matter” protests. Cooper and his camera tagged along with writers William S. Burroughs, Jean Genet, and Terry Southern, who were covering the convention for Esquire magazine and soon became part of the story as they marched with the anti-war protesters. 

Cooper’s exquisite B&W photography captures the “calm before the storm” on the streets in Chicago that year, while Southern’s spirited prose (including his classic essay “Grooving In Chi”) captures the zeitgeist of the era as hippies, yippies, and Beats converged in a single place to try and change history. Together with Brian Jones: Butterfly In the Park, Cooper’s Chicago 1968 offers a valuable visual documentary of the era. 

Check the Genius Publishing website for more info. 

 

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Rev. Keith A. Gordon

RockandRollGlobe contributor Rev. Gordon is an award-winning music critic with 40+ years experience writing for publications like Blues Music magazine and Blurt. Follow him on Twitter @reverendgordon.

One thought on “Brian Jones: Rock ‘n’ Roll King Monarch

  • December 4, 2021 at 10:44 am
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    Anythingin the book about how Jones liked to beat up women?

    Reply

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